The Great Topeka Bike Fest is coming to the city Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30. With events scheduled over the weekend throughout the city.
The festival is a time for all things bicycles. Topeka Metro Bikes has partnered with Visit Topeka for the event.
Topekans may remember a yearly event that involved children and bicycles and, according to Karl Fundenberger, director of bicycle operations at Topeka Metro Transit Authority, part of the event is hoping to bring back some of those memories.
“We’re continuing the momentum for the Cyclovia events, and bringing back a Topeka classic from 20 years ago — The Great Topeka Bike Race,” Fundenberger said.
The weekend begins with the Glow Ride Saturday at 8 p.m. on the north steps of the Kansas Capitol grounds with check in beginning at 7 p.m. According to the event on Facebook, riders are encouraged to light up their bikes with reflectors, glow sticks, lights and anything else that will glow for the evening ride from the Capitol to the campus of Washburn and back.
Co-organizer Sara O’Keeffe said that she hopes Washburn students will take part in the weekend’s events, especially the Glow Ride.
“I know that a lot of students at Washburn ride Topeka Metro Bikes so I think it would great if they attend,” O’Keeffe said.
There are many reasons for doing a ride in the evening. According to O’Keeffe, the ride will go through city streets in a parade.
“I think it brings about awareness,” O’Keeffe said. “Let’s be aware that there are more than just cars using the road. There are people who are walking on their sidewalks. There are bikes in the road, which is absolutely legal, and you are to give them 3-feet if you pass them in a car. Which not every driver knows.”
The ride is also about making a statement that there is a biking community in Topeka.
“We do fun things,” O’Keeffe said. “We like to get together with our friends and we like to have activities to do. This is very much a fun and family-friendly oriented event.
According to O’Keeffe, last year there were over 300 people that participated in the Glow Ride with lots of families among them, pulling trailers and riding tandem.
O’Keeffe said that students can pick up a bike on campus and head down to the Capitol or they can come the Capitol first and join in on the ride. After the Glow Ride there will be an afterparty on the rooftop of the Crosby Parking Garage.
“I really think that Washburn students will enjoy that,” O’Keeffe said. “We’re going to have a DJ… we’ll have food.”
Sunday will feature a bike rodeo and races for children, casual, guided rides around the city, showcases from NoWear BMX, a pump track provided by Shawnee County Parks and Recreation, food trucks and live music. Metro Bikes will also be available to try for free throughout the festival. Families will be encouraged to bring their children with some giveaways as well.
“They’ll be giving out free helmets,” O’Keeffe said. “The first 200 kids to register [for the bike race] will get a free t-shirt.”
The races will be for children ages 5 to 10. Parents can register their children online.
Also happening during the event will be a Better Block popup park north of the Capitol, along Eighth street. The Better Block concept is one where you look at ways to make a change in community planning on a demonstrative and community level rather than a governmental level. This popup park will allow community members and officials to see what it could look like to use the Better Block concept of community planning.
“It’s all about citizens taking the lead,” O’Keeffe said. “Eighth street will actually be open to traffic. It will have a pocket park set into those parking spaces and it will have a protected bike lane as well.”
O’Keeffe mentioned that if the weather holds up there will also be painted crosswalks. The hope is that with vibrant and brightly colored crosswalks drivers will be more aware of pedestrians. The hope is that this will be the first of many future Better Blocks.
“It’s kind of a little trial honestly to see what comes of it, how people feel about it [and] what feedback we get from it,” O’Keeffe said.
The ultimate purpose of the weekend is to make people more aware of what kind of opportunities the city of Topeka has for biking.
“A biking culture is an inclusive environment,” said Fundenberger. “From transportation to sports and recreation, we want everyone to feel welcome.”
More information, including a schedule of the weekend’s events can be found at biketopeka.com.